A bicycle is a vehicle and it has moving parts. Just like any mechanical device, it requires regular maintenance to keep it operating so that you will have a smooth and safe ride and extends its life. If a bike is not well maintained, you will have to work harder when you ride and a mechanical failure could result in a crash and injury. Here are some basic lessons on what you should do to keep your bike in good operating order and when it should be done.
ABC Quick Check
Before every ride you should perform the ABC Quick Check. With practice it will only take a few seconds and it will identify any issues with your bike that may compromise your safety. The mnemonic ABC is easy to remember and helps you focus on the key safety tasks.
Tires are under pressure and most will lose a little air through normal riding or just sitting around--typically 10-20 lbs of pressure over a week. While a small loss initially may still keep the tire within the recommended range, it is a good idea to get in the habit of topping off the air so it does not get too low. For example, if a tire has a recommended inflation of 40-65 lbs, and you started out at the upper level, losing 10 lbs will still keep the tire within the recommended range, but unless you top it off, it will lose more the next week and be below the recommended inflation, enough to cause a noticeable impact to your ride.
There are two reasons to keep your bike tires inflated to the recommended pressure:
Of all the moving parts on a bike, the one that needs the most attention is the chain. It is exposed to the elements and has dozens of moving parts that need to be lubricated. At least once a month you should drip some lubricant in each roller, rotate the crank to let the lube settle in, and then wipe off the excess. If you get caught in the rain or snow, when you get home, be sure to wipe off the moisture and apply more lube.
A bike tune up is a way to get the best performance from a bike. Moving parts can rust and wear with regular use and having a professional check out how things are working together will extend the life of the moving parts and prevent larger issues later on. Bike tune ups vary in price and what is included, but here is a typical list of procedures that should be checked on a regular basis:
Getting a bike tune up is a package of services that would usually cost more if performed separately. During the tune up process, a mechanic may notice that there are parts that need replacing. The cost of new parts plus the labor to replace them is usually an extra service. The most common parts that need to be replaced at regular intervals is the chain which can stretch, brake pads because the rubber wears down, or cables that can become rusted or kinked. When the bike is in the bike shop for a tune up, it may be a good time to make upgrades you may have been thinking about, like replacing the handlebar tape, upgrading the saddle, or installing accessories such as a rack, fenders, or lights.
A bike shop may have different tune up packages. A deluxe package usually includes the removal and deep cleaning of components such as the cranks and derailleurs and brakes. If your bike is a single speed without a front and rear derailleur the tune up might cost less because there are less components to adjust.
Even if you work on your bike yourself, it is a good idea to hire a professional bike mechanic to do a tune up occasionally because they have the skill and experience to make adjustments you may not know how to do. For most recreational cyclists, a tune up once a year should be sufficient. If you are a hard core daily commuter and bike during harsh weather, a tune up twice a year is advisable.
While people think about taking their bike into a bike shop for its annual tune up in the spring, everyone else does also, so winter is actually a better time. There is less maintenance work in the traditional off season and mechanics usually are able to give your bike more attention and spend more time cleaning and adjusting it.
With regular attention, your bike will provide you with years of recreation, transportation, and joy.
Sharon Kaminecki and others comment on adventures in bicycling and other stories